How Becoming a Lawyer Works

By: Laura Murray & Sam Burritt

Law School Curriculum

You'll take many of your hardest law school courses in the first year, but they're also some of the most important.
You'll take many of your hardest law school courses in the first year, but they're also some of the most important.

Hooray! You're in! You found the school that fits like a glove, aced your LSATs, secured financing, glided through the interview, and got into law school. What can you expect now that this part's over?

First, the hard part is just beginning. Law schools, unlike medical schools or some undergraduate institutions, don't have classes specifically designed to weed out the weaker candidates. The most demanding classes, however, tend to fall in the first year when you take the core curriculum requisites mandated by the ABA. Courses such as Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Property Law, Civil Procedure and Legal Writing lay the necessary groundwork for a career in law and the rest of law school, but they're also the hardest courses you'll take. All the concepts of law are spelled out in these classes; everything else flows from this knowledge base. In many ways, these first few courses are the most important courses you'll take in law school, and will be the ones you reference most as a practicing attorney.


After the first year and a half, you can take more specialized courses such as Tax, Intellectual Property, or Environmental Law. Most schools offer legal clinics such as Bar Review or Moot Court. Some schools place special emphasis on different areas, such as trial practice, independent study or clinical experience. Occasionally, you can find a program that offers a joint degree, such as an MBA/JD (Master of Business Administration combined with a Law degree). Once you get past the first year or so, you can start getting into the areas of law that interest you most. You need 90 credits to graduate, and most classes are worth 3-4 credits. The nature of the classes varies from institution to institution, and even professor to professor. Some classes will be more structured than others, some will require more research and writing, some will have only one test at the end of the semester. All classes will test your time management skills, your capacity for organized and analytical thought and your knowledge of the material presented. They will all be demanding in some fashion.

Upon graduating from law school, you will have a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree conferred upon you. This, while being a great achievement in and of itself, does not a lawyer make. The law is a profession like any other, and, as a professional, you must be licensed. This is where the Bar Exam comes in -- and if you thought the LSAT was tough, this is tougher. We'll learn about the Bar on the next page.